Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision problems among people over 50. AMD is a progressive eye condition that affects as many as 15 million Americans. Someone with AMD isn’t completely blind; they are “centrally blind.” Peripheral vision may be just fine, but they cannot see what they look at directly. My mother developed AMD in her 70s and used to say they when she looked directly at people, their heads looked like Q-tips. However, she remained a sharp card player because she could see the cards in her hand quite well as long as she didn’t look at them directly. It may sound like that’s the solution, just don’t look directly at something, but in real life that would be exhausting if not impossible. It becomes impossible to read, watch television, to see the people you are talking with, and certainly driving is out of the question.
VisionCare has developed miniaturized telescopes called CentraSight that can be surgically implanted directly in the eye behind the iris of patients with AMD. The telescope has a wide-angle micro-optic lens that effectively replaces central vision in the eye in which it is implanted. The CentraSight enlarges images 2.7 times What the lens ‘sees’ is projected onto a healthy part of the retina, which registers the data to send to the brain. Only one eye has a lens implanted, as that eye will be ‘trained’ to see the central field. the other eye will continue to function for peripheral vision.
Not everyone is a candidate for a CentraSight implant. Patients must have irreversible AMD which is not responding to drug treatment and the eye in which the device is placed cannot have had cataract surgery. Patients must also have occupational therapy after the surgery to learn to see with the implant.
This isn’t an example of Health Tech that’s connected to a smartphone or wristband, and no data is sent to the cloud. It may seem old school. However, the micro-optics of the telescope and the way it allows the possibility of regained vision for those who thought they had lost it forever sounds like a great idea. If it works well for most recipients, which may be dependent on how well they adapt to re-training their eyes for new roles, CentraSight and similar developments could become as common as cataract surgery as ageing increases.